Go Ask Alice, a realistic situation comes to life
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Released in 1971, “Go Ask Alice” is an account of the experiences of a girl who is introduced to drugs at 15 and eventually dies of an overdose. The story is presented in the form of a diary kept by the unnamed narrator, and was originally marketed as the writing of a real person. Though the author is credited as anonymous, it’s generally accepted to be a fictional work by American therapist and author Beatrice Sparks.
Intended for an audience of teenagers and young adults, “Go Ask Alice” centers around the challenges of growing up and the way that drugs can distort one’s worldview and personal life. Though the narrator is an average young girl with big dreams and curiosities about the world, the diary she keeps holds a much darker story than that of the average teenager. However, in today’s world, drug use is becoming more and more normalized in the lives of young people. The book has received attention for its graphic depictions of sexual abuse and life on the streets.
The diarist begins writing at 14, when her father gets a dean position at a college in a new location. When she goes home for the summer to stay with her grandparents, the narrator meets an acquaintance from her old school, who invites her to a party that weekend. At the party, the diarist, now 15, unknowingly takes LSD and immediately falls in love with the euphoria and the madness of it. She then begins experimenting with marijuana and speed, and everything is wonderful for her. After losing her virginity while stoned, she worries that she may be pregnant. At the same time, her grandfather has a minor heart attack. To deal with her anxieties, the diarist develops a taste for sleeping pills.
Upon returning home for the start of the school year, the narrator befriends a cool, drug-using girl and the two begin selling for a couple of college students. Soon, the girls decide to run away to San Francisco, where they work at a boutique for an older woman named Sheila. The woman invites the girls to glamorous parties where they begin taking drugs again. Eventually the relationship becomes sinister as Sheila gives the girls heroine and sexually abuses them with the help of her friends. The traumatized girls run away to another California town and start their own boutique, which they quickly tire of and decided to return home. However, life back at home is difficult for the narrator and she quickly runs off again, this time to Oregon.
Life on the road this time around is nightmarish. The narrator’s diary entries become sporadic and scatter-brained. She finds herself living on the streets or with whoever will take her in. Working as a prostitute, the diarist spends her free time sitting around with other burned out people, “minds exploding and hands out” with nothing to do but hate her situation and the world in general.
Eventually she is able to return home to her family and achieve a sort of normalcy, although she is alienated at her school. She swears off drugs, but is caught in a no man’s land between the drug-using “grass gang” and the non-using “straight” kids. One day, she is unknowingly dosed with LSD (again) and this trip is so bad that she is never the same again.
The writing style of the book is captivating. While it may have been written by an adult, the voice coming out of the diary entries truly sounds like that of a damaged, sometimes hopeful, sometimes hopeless teenager. While her graphic and dark story may not be entirely relatable to most young people, it does contain fantastic thoughts about life, love, death, happiness and pain. As amazon.com puts it, “the torture and hell of adolescence has rarely been captured as it is in this classic diary of an anonymous, addicted teen.”
I don’t read a lot of books, but this one was difficult to put down. While it may be over 30 years old, the critically acclaimed “Go Ask Alice” stands the test of time and makes for a great read.
Ben Godfrey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at email@example.com